Renault's R29 was far more competitive in Shanghai than it was able to demonstrate in the Chinese Grand Prix, reckons Flavio Briatore - but the Italian was rather less complimentary about the potential of Nelsinho Piquet.

Fernando Alonso qualified second for the R?gie at the weekend, stunning paddock observers in a car that has hitherto shown little promise, light fuel load regardless. An early pit-stop under the initial safety car would unfortunately prove to be the Spaniard's undoing, however, as he slipped right down to the back of the order from where he would recover to ninth - the first of the non points-paying positions - at the chequered flag.

Briatore argues that the torrential conditions, though, masked what was a real improvement from the French outfit with its new 'double-decker' diffuser - the first of the 'conventional' diffuser squads to debut its split-level revision - with the Renault F1 managing director contending that the team's challenger was 'faster than McLaren, Ferrari and BMW', and that in normal circumstances Alonso would have finished fifth behind the Red Bulls and Brawn GPs.

"If everything had gone perfectly, he could have been fifth," the recently-turned 59-year-old told Spanish sports newspaper Marca, "and our car is even better than that.

"I want to see a race with normal weather conditions, because we are much more competitive [than before]. We have a big step forward for Fernando and Piquet in Barcelona."

The latter did not benefit from the new diffuser in China, but nonetheless, Briatore was somewhat less-than enthusiastic about his young charge's performance in the race - one in which the under-fire Brazilian came unstuck on rather too many occasions en route to 16th and last place at the close.

"I can understand it happening once," conceded the QPR co-owner, "but it was like a contest - if you spin the most you get the most points."

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